Prison fire in southeast Turkey kills 13


A relative of a prisoner cries in front of Sanliurfa city prison on June 17, 2012.



Thirteen prisoners have been killed and five others injured in a fire at a jail in southeast Turkey after inmates set their bedding alight.

The victims suffocated to death on Saturday evening before the blaze could be brought under control at the facility, which houses about 1000 prisoners in the province of Sanliurfa, according to the BBC. It took firefighters about ninety minutes to extinguish the fire, and five inmates suffering from smoke inhalation were rushed to hospital.

Local media reported that the inmates had set their bedding alight to protest against the conditions of their detention, but provincial governor Celalettin Guvenc told Reuters that the fire had started after a row broke out between inmates in a dormitory:

"They set fire to the dormitory and unfortunately 13 of the 18 people held there lost their lives," Guvenc told the news agency. "There was absolutely no confrontation with the guards or soldiers. This has nothing to do with political prisoners."

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Police reportedly used pepper spray and blocked road access to the prison to disperse angry relatives of the inmates demanding to know the names of those who died in the fire. According to Sky News, a probe into the blaze – which will examine the amount of time it took the authorities and fire services to respond to the blaze – has been launched, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan said an investigation into the possibility that the dormitory may have been overcrowded would also take place.